Healthcare Musings August 2012

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The Future of Healthcare - What Does it Look Like? 

by Donald Jones

Donald JonesAugust 2012 - 860 million people worldwide have at least one chronic disease.1  10,000 people in this country turn 65 each day and most have at least one chronic disease.2  In the US, health care is nearly a 3 trillion dollar industry, comprising close to 18% of the national GDP, and up to 85% of all health spending goes towards treating chronic conditions.3  The rising cost of health care is so out of control that in January of 2012, ratings agency Standard and Poor’s warned it might downgrade “a number of highly rated” G20 countries, including the US, beginning in 2015 if their governments fail to enact reforms to curb rising health care spending and other costs related to aging populations.4 

While these numbers are staggering, and only seem to be getting worse, all of this is driving a global push to improve the quality of care and rein in health care costs, using well-suited wireless solutions to address these big challenges.

Globally, more people have access to a mobile device than have access to drinking water5 or electricity6 or own a toothbrush7, making mobile one of the most pervasive platforms in the world. Today there is a growing global industry ecosystem that is working to accelerate the convergence of wireless technology and health care and to promote the many benefits that wireless health affords consumers, physicians and the broken health care system as a whole. More and more, health care companies are integrating wireless technology into their solutions, creating effective medical devices that include wireless body-worn sensors, environmental sensors, medical implants and smart phone apps. These solutions are at the forefront of a global revolution aimed at collapsing time and space in healthcare to increase consumer convenience and engagement, while reducing the staggering costs associated with treating chronic disease and empowering patients to better manage their own care.

The integration of wireless technology in health care generates greater consumer adoption by making access to services and information more convenient.  mHealth is about empowering consumers to manage their own health and chronic diseases by aggregating biometric data from wireless devices, sensors and the multifunctional smartphone, which is fast becoming a digital health sensor on its own.  These solutions allow patients to be their own advocates, seek real-time assessments of their health and fitness, and receive highly personalized advice based on their current vitals, past data and situations.

Both consumers and physicians are rapidly embracing wireless health. A PwC study reported that 56% of consumers like the idea of remote care8, and consumer adoption of mobile health is already becoming mainstream because of ease of use and convenience. Currently, tens of millions of consumers are using the more than 13,000 health care-related apps that can be found in the Apple store.9  For example, ZocDoc, an application used by 2.5 million people, displays a physician’s availability, affording patients the ease of scheduling an appointment at the most convenient time. Even more widely used, with over 2 million reported downloads, is the Walgreen’s prescription app, which makes refilling prescriptions fast, easy and convenient.10

 In an effort to catch up with consumers, health care professionals will adopt and begin using complex clinical applications to manage the care of patients with chronic conditions. Companies like Entra Health Systems or Telcare are spearheading this by creating more convenient solutions for diabetes self-management. By making the connection between patient and health care provider fast, effortless and convenient, mHealth is empowering the consumer to maintain their health, manage chronic disease and have more efficient communications with health care professionals. New technology platforms are simplifying securely connecting medical devices to the net via a wireless hub and cloud based platform.  This makes it easy to combine data streams from multiple devices into apps, electronic health records, and health analytics engines. Devices from multiple manufacturers can be combined to offer simple, easy to deploy, inexpensive, private and secure home-based solutions while opening the opportunities for new ‘connected’ health apps and interactivity with physicians and their medical records systems.

Preventative mHealth solutions and remote monitoring have been successful at reducing the need for acute care situations, such as hospitalizations and doctors appointments, ultimately lowering the cost of health care. It has been shown that 88% of physicians want patients to monitor their health at home and many device and software companies are bringing us closer to this reality.11  One such company, Airstrip Technologies, is developing software platforms that wirelessly transmit biometric data and patient information generated from ECG, ICU and maternal fetal monitors, from the hospital to the physician’s mobile device while a patient is in an acute care setting or after they are discharged. A 200,000 patient clinical trial performed by Dr. Leslie Saxon, Chief of Cardiology at the USC Keck School of Medicine, demonstrated that by remotely tracking patients with cardiac implanted defibrillators, there was a 50% reduction in mortality.12

3 Million Lives is a new program underway at the National Health Service in the United Kingdom to expand home monitoring, initiated as a result of a recent telehealth study of about 3,100 patients performed by the UK Department of Health. This study showed that remote monitoring reduced mortality rates by 45% for patients suffering from chronic disease, cut bed days by 14% and slashed emergency room admissions by 20%.13 By addressing problems or risks of various chronic diseases and conditions before they become critical, wireless technology can lessen the need for acute care, improve the health of patients and reduce health care costs.

This is just the beginning. 2012 marks year 1 in wireless health, as many of these solutions are just beginning to achieve scale in the marketplace. Wireless technology will play an increasingly integral role in the future of health care. Devices will connect with health software and health apps and interact with health analytics to provide valuable predictive analytics and actionable information to patients, physicians and health care providers.  As the wireless health industry moves forward, the ever-growing network of patients, health care partners and connectivity providers will continue to leverage the power of wireless to empower consumers to take charge of their own health, make care more accessible and convenient, lower health care costs through preventative care and ultimately improve the health care system as a whole.   The day is in sight where patients, family members and caregivers alike will demand and expect connected health solutions in their care delivery and management. We are seeing the birth of a new definition of quality healthcare.


1 Source: http://www.continuaalliance.org/static/cms_workspace/Continua_Market_Dat...
2  Source: http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=1150
3  Source: http://www.forbes.com/conferences/2012/forbes-healthcare-2012.html
4  Source: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/31/us-g20-ratings-sp-idUSTRE80U00...
5  Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11435522
6  Source: http://www.worldwatch.org/energy-poverty-remains-global-challenge-future-1
7  Source: Institution of Engineering and Technology, 2011; Dr. Mike Short)
8  Source: (PricewaterhouseCoopers HRI Consumer Survey, 2010)
9  Source: MobiHealthNews, An Analysis of Consumer Health Apps for Apple’s iPhone 2012 report:
    http://mobihealthnews.com/research/an-analysis-of-consumer-health-apps-f...
10Source: http://mobihealthnews.com/16594/walgreens-app-adds-pill-reminders-rx-tra...
11Source: (PricewaterhouseCoopers HRI Physician Survey, 2010)
12
Source: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/122/23/2359
13
Source: http://www.3millionlives.co.uk/About-Telecare-and-Telehealth.html

About the Author

Donald Jones serves as Vice President, Global Strategy and Market Development at Qualcomm Life.  He is responsible for Qualcomm Life’s development of wireless technologies and platforms in the health, fitness and life sciences markets, and is recognized as a leader in the field.  In 2005, he founded and is Chairman of the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance (WLSA), a 501c (6) trade organization, which works with both the wireless and health industries to enable new business models, new businesses healthcare services, healthcare IT, pharmaceutical and medical devices.

Jones is a Member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Digital Health.  He is on the boards of the Alliance Healthcare Foundation, and the American Telemedicine Association.  Jones was a founding board member of the West Wireless Health Institute, with Eric Topol, MD and Gary West, the worlds first and foremost institute focused on the clinical efficacy and economic efficiencies of wireless technologies in healthcare.  In 2010, the San Diego Transcript named Jones one of ‘San Diego’s Top Influential’s’, and Fierce Health IT named Jones one of the 10 Disruptive Forces in Health IT.  In early 2010, Jones was named to the Consumer Products Innovations Board at Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals.

Jones holds a bachelors’ degree in biology and bio-engineering from the University of California, San Diego, a Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego and an MBA from the University of California, Irvine.  Jones holds multiple issued and pending patents in the use of cell phones in incentive reward programs and in asynchronous media communications.

For more information, please contact Jamie Eisinger, Marketing Communications Coordinator, Qualcomm Life at 858-845-1033 or jeisinge@qualcomm.com.
 

   

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